It happened in an instant.
One minute, a 23-year-old Lawrence woman was leaning into her car to get a bottle of water. The next, the woman testified, she was struggling with a complete stranger who forced her into the car and raped her.
“First he put his hand over my mouth,” she said from the witness stand Monday afternoon in Douglas County District Court. “Then he shoved me into the car. He tried to unzip my pants as he was pushing me.”
The victim’s testimony came during a preliminary hearing for a 19-year-old man, who is facing rape and aggravated kidnapping charges stemming from the incident that occurred during the early morning hours of Aug. 13.
The woman said the attack came as she was leaving Wilde’s Chateau, 2412 Iowa.
She testified before a packed courtroom filled with at least 25 of her friends and supporters, describing what went through her mind as the attack was occurring in the passenger seat of her car.
“I remember scrambling with my foot for the key,” she said. “My intention was to put my seatbelt on and drive as fast as I could into a wall with him in my car.”
After realizing she had been overcome, the woman’s goal then shifted to making sure her attacker got caught.
She stole his wallet from his back pocket, throwing it onto the driver’s side floorboard of her car, and ripped off a necklace the man had been wearing. After realizing the man was wearing a condom, she also tried to obtain his DNA.
“I wanted to scratch him without him knowing what I was doing,” she said.
Monday’s lengthy hearing was conducted using an interpreter on a speaker phone to translate the proceedings into the Mixteco Alto dialect of the Spanish language for the defendant, who doesn’t speak English.
Defense attorney Melanie Freeman-Johnson did not present evidence, but told the judge there could have been some confusion with the language barrier and alcohol consumption.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Peggy Kittel bound the defendant over for trial on both counts.
Freeman-Johnson also argued for a reduction in her client’s bond from $250,000 to $30,000, saying her client has lived in Lawrence for the past three years and held down a job at two local restaurants prior to his arrest.
“I believe it’s an unreasonably high bond,” Freeman-Johnson said.
But Kittel denied the motion, given that the defendant is looking at spending more than 20 years in prison if convicted of the crime.
“I don’t know that I have any assurance that he won’t flee this country,” Kittel said.
Kittel scheduled the next court date for Oct. 30, at which time both sides will try to come up with a January trial date that also works for the interpreter.